Despite positive responses to its early presentations and support from a number of hardware and software makers, Windows 1.0 was received poorly by critics. Critics felt Windows 1.0 did not meet their expectations. In particular, they felt that Windows 1.0 put too much emphasis on mouse input at a time when mouse use was not yet widespread; not providing enough resources for new users; and for performance issues, especially on systems with lower computer hardware specifications. Despite these criticisms, Windows 1.0 was an important milestone for Microsoft, as it introduced the Microsoft Windows line, and in computer history in general. Windows 1.0 was declared obsolete and Microsoft stopped providing support and updates for the system on December 31, 2001.
The development of Windows began after Microsoft founder Bill Gates saw a demonstration at COMDEX 1982 of VisiCorp's Visi On, a graphical user interface (GUI) software suite for IBM PC compatible computers.
Microsoft first presented Windows to the public on November 10, 1983. Requiring two floppy disk drives and 192 KB of RAM, Microsoft described the software as a device driver for MS-DOS 2.0. By supporting cooperative multitasking in tiled windows when using well-behaved applications that only used DOS system calls, and permitting non-well-behaved applications to run in a full screen, Windows differed from both Visi On and Apple Computer's Lisa by immediately offering many applications. Unlike Visi On, Windows developers did not need to use Unix to develop IBM PC applications; Microsoft planned to encourage other companies, including competitors, to develop programs for Windows by not requiring a Microsoft user interface in their applications.
Many manufacturers of MS-DOS computers such as Compaq, Zenith, and DEC promised to provide support, as did software companies such as Ashton-Tate and Lotus. After previewing Windows, BYTE magazine stated in December 1983 that it "seems to offer remarkable openness, reconfigurability, and transportability as well as modest hardware requirements and pricing … Barring a surprise product introduction from another company, Microsoft Windows will be the first large-scale test of the desktop metaphor in the hands of its intended users".
From early in Windows history Gates viewed it as Microsoft's future. He told InfoWorld magazine in April 1984 that "Our strategies and energies as a company are totally committed to Windows, in the same way that we're committed to operating-system kernels like MS-DOS and Xenix. We're also saying that only applications that take advantage of Windows will be competitive in the long run."IBM was notably absent from Microsoft's announcement, and by late 1984 the press reported a "War of the Windows" between Windows, IBM's TopView, and Digital Research's Graphics Environment Manager (GEM). Microsoft had promised in November 1983 to ship Windows by April 1984, but subsequently denied that it had announced a release date, and predicted that Windows would ship by June 1985. Deemphasizing multitasking, the company stated that Windows' purpose, unlike that of TopView, was to "turn the computer into a graphics-rich environment" while using less memory.
Windows 1.0 was officially released on November 20, 1985.
Version 1.01, released in 1985, was the first point-release after Windows 1.00.
Version 1.02, released in May 1986, was an international release.
Version 1.03, released in August 1986, included enhancements that made it consistent with the international release. It included drivers for European keyboards and additional screen and printer drivers.
Version 1.04, released in April 1987, added support for the new IBM PS/2 computers, although no support for PS/2 mice or new VGA graphics modes was provided. At the same time, Microsoft and IBM announced the introduction of OS/2 and its graphical OS/2 Presentation Manager, which were supposed to ultimately replace both MS-DOS and Windows. In November 1987, Windows 1.0 was succeeded by Windows 2.0. Microsoft supported Windows 1.0 for 16 years, until December 31, 2001 – the longest out of all versions of Windows.
FeaturesWindows 1.0 offers limited multitasking of existing MS-DOS programs and concentrates on creating an interaction paradigm (cf. message loop), an execution model and a stable API for native programs for the future. Due to Microsoft's extensive support for backward compatibility, it is not only possible to execute Windows 1.0 binary programs on current versions of Windows to a large extent, but also to recompile their source code into an equally functional "modern" application with just limited modifications. Windows 1.0 is often regarded as a "front-end to the MS-DOS operating system", a description which has also been applied to subsequent versions of Windows. Windows 1.0 is an MS-DOS program. Windows 1.0 programs can call MS-DOS functions, and GUI programs are run from .exe files just like MS-DOS programs. However, Windows .exe files had their own "new executable" (NE) file format, which only Windows could process and which, for example, allowed demand-loading of code and data. Applications were supposed to handle memory only through Windows' own memory management system, which implemented a software-based virtual memory scheme allowing for applications larger than available RAM.
Because graphics support in MS-DOS is extremely limited, MS-DOS applications have to go to the bare hardware (or sometimes just to the BIOS) to get work done. Therefore, Windows 1.0 included original device drivers for video cards, a mouse, keyboards, printers and serial communications, and applications were supposed to only invoke APIs built upon these drivers. However, this extended to other APIs such as file system management functions. In this sense, Windows 1.0 was designed to be extended into a full-fledged operating system, rather than being just a graphics environment used by applications. Indeed, Windows 1.0 is a "DOS front-end" and cannot operate without a DOS environment (it uses, for example, the file-handling functions provided by DOS.) The level of replacement increases in subsequent versions. The system requirements for Windows 1.01 constituted CGA/HGC/EGA (listed as "Monochrome or color monitor"), MS-DOS 2.0, 256 KB of memory or greater, and two double-sided disk drives or a hard drive. Beginning with version 1.03, support for Tandy and AT&T graphics modes was added.
Windows 1.0 runs a shell program known as the MS-DOS Executive, which is little more than a mouse-able output of the DIR command that does not support icons and is not Y2K-compliant. Other supplied programs are Calculator, Calendar, Clipboard Viewer, Clock, Notepad, Paint, Reversi, Cardfile, Terminal and Write. Windows 1.0 does not allow overlapping windows. Instead all windows are tiled. Only dialog boxes can appear over other windows, but cannot be minimized.
Windows 1.0 was released to mixed reviews. Most critics considered the platform to have future potential, but that Windows 1.0 had not fulfilled expectations. Many reviews criticized its demanding system requirements, especially noting the poor performance experienced when running multiple applications at once, and that Windows encouraged the use of a mouse for navigation, a relatively new concept at the time. The New York Times compared the performance of Windows on a system with 512 KB of RAM to "pouring molasses in the Arctic", and that its design was inflexible for keyboard users due to its dependency on a mouse-oriented interface. In conclusion, the Times felt that the poor performance, lack of dedicated software, uncertain compatibility with DOS programs, and the lack of tutorials for new users made DOS-based software such as Borland Sidekick (which could provide a similar assortment of accessories and multitasking functionality) more desirable for most PC users.
In retrospect, Windows 1.0 was regarded as a flop by contemporary technology publications, who, however, still acknowledged its overall importance to the history of the Windows line. Nathaniel Borenstein (who went on to develop the MIME standards) and his IT team at Carnegie Mellon University were also critical of Windows when it was first presented to them by a group of Microsoft representatives. Underestimating the future impact of the platform, he believed that in comparison to an in-house window manager, "these guys came in with this pathetic and naïve system. We just knew they were never going to accomplish anything."The Verge considered the poor reception towards the release of Windows 8 in 2012 as a parallel to Microsoft's struggles with early versions of Windows. In a similar fashion to Windows 1.0 running atop MS-DOS as a layer, Windows 8 offered a new type of interface and software geared towards an emerging form of human interface device on PCs, in this case, a touchscreen (software which, coincidentally, also could not run in overlapping windows, and only "snapped" to the side of the screen), running atop the legacy Windows shell used by previous versions.